Can a living lab foster climate resilience in Punjab?

Pakistan faces a major climate change challenge. A concerted effort by the government and civil society at all levels is required to mitigate these threats. In the last 50 years, the annual mean temperature in Pakistan has increased by roughly 0.5°C. The number of heat wave days per year has increased nearly fivefold in the last 30 years. Annual precipitation has historically shown high variability but has slightly increased in the last 50 years. By the end of this century, the annual mean temperature in Pakistan is expected to rise by 3°C to 5°C for a central global emissions scenario, while higher global emissions may yield a rise of 4°C to 6°C. Average annual rainfall is not expected to have a significant long-term trend, but is expected to exhibit large inter-annual variability.

Under future climate change scenarios, Pakistan is expected to experience increased variability of river flows due to increased variability of precipitation and the melting of glaciers. Demand for irrigation water may increase due to higher evaporation rates. Yields of wheat and basmati rice are expected to decline and may drive production northward, subject to water availability. Water availability for hydropower generation may decline. Hotter temperatures are likely to increase energy demand due to increased air conditioning requirements. Warmer air and water temperatures may decrease the efficiency of nuclear and thermal power plant generation. Mortality due to extreme heat waves may increase. Urban drainage systems may be further stressed by high rainfall and flash floods. Sea level rise and storm surges may adversely affect coastal infrastructure and livelihoods.

Adapting to these impacts may include: development or use of crop varieties with greater heat and drought tolerance, modernizing irrigation infrastructure and employing water-saving technologies, integrated watershed management, reforestation of catchment areas and construction of additional water storage, diversification of energy mix including investment in renewable and small hydropower projects, improved weather forecasting and warning systems, retrofitting of critical energy infrastructure, and construction of dikes or sea walls (ADB, 2017).

Pakistan is ranked in the lowest 25% of countries in terms of the Food Production Index (FPI) and a downward trend is observed in the production of nutritional foods (FAO, 2013). This decrease can be attributed to linkage between climate change and declines in agricultural productivity and food security (Dehlavi, et al., 2015). The upper Indus Ecoregion is characterized by extreme poverty and frequent interruption to livelihood generation means due to natural and climate related hazards. There is an absence in Pakistan of adjustment channels in climate change adaptation strategies leading to augmented discretionary food income and other livelihoods.

There is an unprecedented need to develop and test viable, low-cost and easy to monitor solutions to improve outreach and help enhance the resilience of vulnerable communities to climate change related impacts on their yields, income, and nutrition status (OECD/FAO, 2012) in Pakistan especially in the agriculturally productive areas in Punjab. Use of such approaches are recommended by the newly ratified Sustainable Development Goals with SDG Target 13.b focusing on promotion of mechanisms for increasing the capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in the least developed countries, including a focus on women, youth and local and marginalized communities. This is in line with the federal and provincial governments’ mandate to embed climate change mitigation and adaptation plans in policy and programmatic interventions at all levels.

Research conducted by experts at the Green Box indicates need to engage local communities in designing climate resilient agriculture practices, alternate livelihood techniques, advocacy campaigning and policy making.

A Climate Resilience Lab for Punjab province is being built by Green Box as a pilot living laboratory for local communities and key stakeholders to network, co-create and crowd source indigenous climate adaptation solutions and share real-time learning for effective resilience management nationwide.

Jhang district is the network hub for the Lab. It is ideally located to build on expertise of leading regional universities like University of Agriculture Faisalabad and Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan; access rural areas, farming sites and local farmer communities; rich cultural heritage and ownership for agricultural development in Punjab. Furthermore, the Lab is well suited to expand technical and operational expertise of local talent, public and private stakeholders in leading climate change adaptation and resilience building in Pakistan.

The Lab is structured on partnership and collaboration model allowing synergies to be built across stakeholder spectrum. Green Box Pakistan will provide strategic and operation lead for the Lab’s inception and pilot phase. The Lab will develop partnerships with field experts and leading sector organisations to provide functional and monetary support to the Lab. Internal and external funding sources will be tapped in to seek budget for the pilot phase of the Lab.

What do you think about the climate resilience lab? Would it work or not? How can you help?

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